2021 has been a truly tumultuous year where tragedy has followed tragedy from start to finish. Our world has changed and continues to change one national trauma at a time. It’s a terrifying time to be alive to be sure. However the cinema has continued to prevail. The movies have offered both escape from and a reflection of these dark and troubled times. With the continued presence of COVID-19 as a destructive force it’s been physical media that has sustained cinephiles.
2021 has been a great year for home video releases. As our planet rockets towards self-destruction we can find escape and strength in a plethora of boutique labels. This isn’t sarcasm. Sometimes an intellectual or emotional escape is essential to maintaining one’s own sanity and strength. Boutique labels such as Vinegar Syndrome, Severin Films, the Criterion Collection, Mondo Macabro, Arrow Video, and a growing number of others have brought the cinema in finely curated editions to us cinephiles as a kind of beacon of hope that art will survive and that our cultural legacy, flawed as it may be, will last.
Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films have each given us an outstanding edition of Paul Morrissey’s sister horror films from the early seventies that, for this fan, are a dream come true. Vinegar Syndrome continues to be one of my favorite labels however there have been no deluxe editions to rival Severin Films’ boxed set All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror this year. Imprint’s The Gambler (1974), Arrow Video’s Blind Beast (1969), Umbrella’s Gloria (1980) and Kino-Lorber’s Get Crazy (1983) are amongst my favorite single disc releases of 2021.
But 2021 will forever be the year that we cinephiles lost Viva Video!. This was the last video store in South Eastern Pennsylvania. Their treasure trove of a catalogue has been sold off and their doors closed forever. Their existence sustained a community of films nerds, academics, serious cinephiles, and casual film buffs for nine years. Viva Video is the reason I made it through the first year of COVID. They brought the rarest of films to us and now they’re gone. Viva Video exists only as a social force now, curating screenings at BMFI.
I’ll forever treasure my memories of chatting with folks at Viva Video and browsing the stacks. The many titles and merchandise that I purchased from their closing sale have instantly become some of the most prized titles and objects in my collections. What they gave to me, and so many others like me, during Viva’s final days will see us through the years to come.